BIIF volleyball, what we missed: Unfinished business for Kamehameha, Makua Lani

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Makua Lani's Kahoku Benson may have missed his senior season of high school, but he's set to play for Division I Grand Canyon next season in college.

  • Tribune-Herald file photo With teammates such as Chyston Loa, right, Kamehameha's Davin Masanda would have had plenty of weapons to set to during his senior season.

Sam Thomas looks back to 2017 when he thinks about this season’s Kamehameha boys volleyball team, which shares the same type of athleticism.

“This team was the most athletic since the twins’ (Addison and Avery Enriques) last year when they finished second to Punahou at states,” Thomas said. “We would have had a great chance at the state level. We had a lot of returnees, a lot of height, a lot of club experience. The kids really liked each other. I really would have liked to have seen us compete.”

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Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic canceled the Warriors shot at a BIIF Division I title repeat and a state run.

Still, we can dream, can’t we?

Last season at the HHSAA championships, Kamehameha fell to eventual state champion Punahou in the quarterfinals.

Sometimes, being the BIIF champion and the No. 3 seed isn’t so great. That draw is usually against the ILH runner-up, which happened to be the Buffanblu.

It was no walking down easy street for BIIF runner-up Hilo. The unseeded Vikings beat Leilehua in the first round and were swept by ILH champion and No. 1 seed Iolani in the quarterfinals.

That sweep is only supposed to give the Warriors extra motivation. If it helps, the Buffanblu graduated their top player, 6-foot-7 Jack Deuchar, who signed with USC.

The Kamehameha senior leadership starts with Kamau Makaike, who would have filled in at outside hitter and middle blocker.

The 2019 All-BIIF first team pick will play college ball at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio. The Division III Yellow Jackets are in their inaugural season.

The ball-handling would have been in good hands with senior setter Davin Masanda.

Chase Bridges-Hunter and Chyston Loa would have provided the height and Blane Baclig additional hitting firepower.

Thomas was also encouraged with the progress of Keaau transfer Styles Primacio.

“He was looking good,” Thomas said. “He’s 6 feet 2 and could play middle or outside and be our backup setter. He was really looking forward to this year.”

The best match of the season, Kamehameha at Hilo on March 21, didn’t take place.

Hilo senior Kaala Deitch, last season’s BIIF player of the year, was left wondering what if?

Unfortunately, the pandemic also wiped out all the spring sports All-BIIF teams. So those selections are gone to the wind.

“All of the big four teams (Kamehameha, Hilo, Waiakea, and Kealakehe) would have had a shot at the title this year,” Deitch said. “At first it was pretty rough to have the season canceled. I remember envisioning myself on senior night when I was a freshman, so for all of that to be canceled was pretty hard.”

Deitch will play Division I ball at New Jersey Institute of Technology and major in chemical engineering.

On the Division II level, Makua Lani was the story of 2019 winning its first BIIF championship.

The Lions fell to Seabury Hall in four sets in the quarterfinals at states and beat Hawaii Prep for fifth place.

There was unfinished business for coach Ryenn Sotelo’s squad.

“I definitely think we would have won BIIF and make a run for states for sure,” he said. “We played in a preseason tourney, beat HPA and lost to Kamehameha but would have improved over time.

“We were just coming together at the Ka’u game when everything was canceled. We were starting to find our groove. We were looking forward to how we would do at states. It’s a bummer that won’t happen.”

The Lions had two players, Elliot Veisauyadra and TJ Heath, transfer to Kealakehe.

But Kai Van Bergen, a soccer player, filled in Veisauyadra’s role, and Kaipono Benson, last season’s BIIF player of the year, started to take swings at hitter in addition to his setting duties.

Kahoku Benson will take his hitting talents to Division I Grand Canyon. Laukoa Fruean will be another big loss.

Makua Lani will likely be a BIIF title contender again in 2021, if there is a season.

But Sotelo can’t help stop thinking about what if scenarios.

“The biggest thing is we would have been better at states with our core returnees back,” he said. “We wanted to prove ourselves. Last year was eye-opening. We would have been more prepared to play over there.

“We would have had a fighting chance. Saint Francis is no longer around. King Kekaulike is rebuilding.”

Saint Francis, the two-time defending state champion, closed operations due to financial woes.

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The Lions with an eye toward 2021 are just waiting to show everybody how good they are.

“We’re headed in the right direction and in a good place,” Sotelo said.

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